Human Flower Project

Religious Rituals

Friday, March 02, 2012

Critical Minds and ‘Vegetal Life’

A new book series will publish interdisciplinary studies of plant “being” in religion, food systems, philosophy, art and more. The call for proposals is here.

imageArborglyph in an aspen tree, carved by a Basque sheepherder, 1935 (a practice now outlawed), Tahoe National Forest

Photo: L. Hanson

If plants and flowers provoke you to philosophize, if you’d just as soon re-read Allen Ginsberg’s “Sunflower Sutra” as fertilize the peonies, please turn your inspired attention to a new book series from Rodopi (a scholarly publisher based in Amsterdam).

Michael Marder, in the Department of Philosophy of The University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz, kindly asked us to spread the word. The project’s editor, he writes, “This is the first series on ‘critical plant studies’ in the world. We are very enthusiastic about it and are looking forward to receiving manuscripts and book proposals for evaluation.”

Michael thought that Human Flower Project readers and writers were likely to have such books germinating, and we believe he’s right. Georgia, Allen, Jill, Sandy, and EarthScholars Jim and Renee, we know you have a wealth of ideas. And we trust that many other readers do as well. Here you go!

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Posted by Julie on 03/02 at 03:36 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyReligious RitualsPermalink

Thursday, January 26, 2012

AMDG—With Flowers in Macon

“To the greater glory of God”—fourteen churches lay their flowers in a Macon, Georgia, Catholic sanctuary.


Members of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church (l-r) Rosa Harris and Paula Cacavias brought flowers and an icon to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon, Georgia, last week.

Photo: Beau Cabell, for Macon Telegraph

You know you’ve got a good thing going when people ask: “Why didn’t we think of this sooner?”

That’s been the question this past week in Macon, Georgia, with the city’s first display of interfaith unity. As part of Macon’s Old City Flower Festival, the flower guild members of St. Joseph Catholic Church decided to ask other congregations to come together and decorate.

St. Joseph’s pastor, the Rev. Allan McDonald, “admits he was skeptical “ that other churches would agree to participate and now “says he’s thrilled.” Members of thirteen congregations – Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox, Episcopalian, Baptist and Methodist – have taken part.

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Posted by Julie on 01/26 at 12:04 PM
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Monday, January 02, 2012

Flora Anorexia

An early 17th Century Human Flower Project: Was it miraculous, a charade, or an eating disorder?

imageEva Vlieghan

Image: Online History of Dutch Women

This New Year, we present Eva Vlieghan, Jenny Craig of the Counter Reformation. Eva was actually Protestant but her dietary version of mysticism is a good example of the era’s spiritual calisthenics.

Vliegan was born in Meurs, North Westphalia, near what’s now the Dutch/German border, 1575. In her late teens, she gradually refused food and in 1597 began what some claimed to be a 34 year fast.

“In 1599, when she was persuaded to eat a single cherry, she became so ill that she nearly died. It was said that she lived from the fragrance of flowers.”

Today we would call Eva Vlieghan “anorexic,” but in the late 16th century, her eating habits were interpreted differently: as a sign of extraordinary sensitivity and power.  This online article about “hunger artists” gives many more examples of those whose abstinence from food became a statement – religious, political, personal.

None of the others, so far as we know, relied on the scent for flowers for sustenance.

“Eva herself maintained that every other day at sunrise she was surrounded by a glittering light and her mouth was moistened by a honey-sweet substance.”

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Posted by Julie on 01/02 at 11:47 AM
Culture & SocietyMedicineReligious RitualsPermalink

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Learning to Grieve in Prague

The Czechs are noted for their impassive approach to death. Rites for Vaclav Havel may change all that, as Lincoln’s death revolutionized funerals in the U.S..


An outpouring candles and flowers at Wenceslas Square

to mourn the death of former president Vaclav Havel

Photo: David W. Cerny, Reuters

Funerals in the Czech Republic tend to be understated affairs or, in many cases, skipped altogether. With the nation’s secular majority and a culture of silence around the subject of death (in part a holdover from the era of Communist rule) there are fewer religious rites here than in most other nations of the West and, according to scholar Olga Nesporova, only somewhat perfunctory services for non-believers.

Her study criticizes Czech funerary observances for their failure to comfort the bereaved or even address the reality of mortal life.

She writes, “Standard secular funerals today are held in an atmosphere similar to that in the 1970s and 1980s. The speech is formal and usually given by a professional speaker provided by the crematorium, who has no personal relationship with either the deceased or the bereaved, to whom the speaker is introduced no more than a quarter of an hour before the funeral ceremony commences.” Any remarks must fit into “a template” limited to about five minutes. No mention of heaven or hell—or the lack thereof—please.

“The brevity of the funeral address is perhaps not surprising since a speech celebrating the working life and social contributions of the deceased may seem insincere when read by someone who had never met them, and since there is little point in talking of the future when there is no conception of an afterlife. “

Surprisingly, to us anyway, Nesporova’s study makes not one mention of flowers. We assume that’s because obsequies are typically so minimal that flowers don’t even come to mind.

This week, however, the Czechs and their friends around the world staged yet another cultural revolution, this one floral, public, personal, emotional. The nation mourned Vaclav Havel, the playwright, heroic dissident and former president who helped topple Communist rule in Czechoslovakia and led the country into a new era.

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Posted by Julie on 12/24 at 02:52 PM
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